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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,096
October 12, 2021
Is Prayer Effective?
By Mike McManus

Do people who pray for recovery from illness have reason to hope for success?

Dr. Dale Matthews of Georgetown University, author of The Faith Factor, estimates that 75% of studies of spirituality have confirmed health benefits of prayer: "If prayer were available in pill form, no pharmacy could stock enough of it."

Writing in Parade Magazine, Dianne Hales asserts, "Dozens of studies have shown that individuals who pray regularly and attend religious services stay healthier and live longer and those who rarely or never do so - even when age, health, habits, demographics and other factors are considered. A six-year Duke University study of 4,000 men and women of different faiths, all over 64, found that the relative risk of dying was 46% lower for those who frequently attend religious services."

Dr. Harold Koenig, director Duke University's Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, asserts that prayer "boosts morale, lowers agitation, loneliness, and life dissatisfaction, and enhances the ability to cope in men, women, the elderly, the young, healthy and sick."

Another Duke study of the same group of 4,000 people over 64, found that those who prayed regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than the less religious. A third study reported that those who attended religious services had healthier immune systems than those who did not.

A Dartmouth Medical Center study reported that one of the best predictors of survival among 232 heart surgery patients was the degree to which they drew comfort from religious faith and prayer.

According to University of Miami research, AIDS patients who became long-term survivors were more likely to be involved in religious practices and volunteer work. Furthermore, Dianne Hales states that studies at several medical centers report that prayer and faith help speed recovery from depression, alcoholism, hip surgery, drug addiction, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attacks and bypass surgery.

How does prayer accomplish so much?

Duke's Dr. Krucoff asserts, "Nobody knows what really happens in human beings when they pray or when you pray for them in terms of the physiological mechanisms involved. But it is not uncommon to be clueless about mechanisms. We cannot explain why beta-blockers reduced death rates after a heart attack either, but we know that they do."

Some scientists speculate that prayer may foster a state of peace and calm that has beneficial impact on cardiovascular and immune systems. Andy Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania, author of Why God Won't Go Away, has documented changes in blood flow in particular regions of the brain when patients are praying. He asserts, "This could be the link between religion and health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, slower heart rates, decreased anxiety and an enhanced sense of well-being."

To some physicians, the power of prayer is too hard to ignore. "I decided that not using prayer on behalf of my patients was the equivalent of withholding a needed medicine or surgical procedure," asserts Dr. Larrry Dossey, author of Healing Words and Prayer Is Good Medicine. He prays for his patients every day.

In James we read, "Is any one of your in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone one of your sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Matthew 6 quotes Jesus saying, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words. For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This, then is how you should pray:

"`Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. Forgive us as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."


Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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